The pilot of a Piper Arrow and a passenger were attempting to fly a night instrument cross-country flight over Delaware. The pilot estimated the flight would take three hours 45 minutes. He planned to carry five and half hours of fuel onboard.
About three hours and 20 minutes into the flight, when the airplane was about 15 miles from the destination airport, the pilot diverted after the plane ahead of him performed a missed approach due to the low ceiling
He diverted to a nearby airport where the wind was calm and the ceiling was overcast at 400 feet AGL. The airport was equipped with an ILS approach, however, the pilot elected to attempt two GPS approaches. During both approaches, he performed missed approaches before the airplane reached the published decision altitude of 306 feet AGL.
Then, about 4 hours 20 minutes into the flight, the pilot diverted again, to an airport with a GPS approach and a reported overcast layer of clouds at 300 feet AGL. He attempted a GPS approach, and this time descended below the approach’s published minimum descent altitude of 310 feel AGL, to about 250 feet AGL, before he performed a missed approach.
After the missed approach, and about five hours into the flight, he advised the air traffic controller that he was low on fuel and diverted to another airport to attempt a VOR approach. He was cleared for the VOR approach about five hours five minutes into the flight.
Six minutes later the pilot declared an emergency, reporting fuel exhaustion. The airplane crashed in wooded terrain about two miles from the runway, killing the pilot.
On the last leg of the flight the pilot was in contact with air traffic control and could have declared an emergency and performed an ILS approach to a military airport that he overflew en route to the airport with the VOR approach, but he did not.
The NTSB attributed the accident to the pilot’s failure to land the airplane at multiple airports that were equipped with adequate instrument approach procedures while operating in low instrument meteorological conditions and his delay in declaring a fuel-related emergency, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.
NTSB Identification: ERA13LA111
This January 2013 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.